Corsair HS1 and HS1A Gaming Headsets
To say that Corsair’s entry into the gaming headset market started out with a boom, would be an understatement. More widely known for their high-end PC components, Corsair began their invasion into the gaming audio market with the Gaming Audio Series HS1 USB Gaming Headset. Several months later, in a move that appears to have been made to appease high-end audio card users, Corsair released the HS1A Analog Headset. I’ll go over both Corsair gaming headsets in this review.
- Super comfortable
- Great sound quality
- User-replaceable ear pads
- Long, tangle-proof cable
- Great value
- Good mic
- 2 year warranty
- Lacks some bass
- A bit heavy
I spend a great deal of time with headphones on, whether I’m listening to music while writing reviews, watching movies on Netflix, or playing games. Not only do headphones provide a better listening experience, but they also allow me to enjoy all those activities at night, when my family is asleep. Therefore, comfort, is the most important characteristic for me. My head size is probably slightly smaller than average so if a pair of headphones are really tight on my head, chances are, they’ll be really tight on an average person. My favorite pair of headphones, by far, is the Sennheiser HD 555’s. They’re better for music than movies or gaming, but I’ve yet to find another pair of headphones or headsets that match their comfort. That is, until I slipped on the Corsair HS1/HS1A. Their memory foam ear pads are like pillows over my ears. I spent hours listening to them with very little discomfort. The large ear cups easily surrounded my ears. The padding on the headband are nice and cushy and the headset did not grip my head like a vise. In fact, they were slightly loose. If you’ve ever tried on a pair of Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones, the Corsair HS1/HS1A’s in comparison will feel like you aren’t wearing anything at all. The only problem I had in regards to comfort was that they would occasionally slide around my head a bit whenever I looked up or down, due to the weight and loose grip. Regardless, believe me when I say that with the HS1/HS1A, you no longer have to sacrifice comfort for sound quality.
I found both the HS1 and HS1A to have very good sound quality for the price. It won’t replace my HD 555’s or Etymotic ER-4PT’s for accuracy, but the HS1/HS1A’s are more versatile and cost loads less. In stereo, both the HS1 and HS1A sounded very good, with forward vocals and clear highs. It did lack some bass though, so bass-heads should move along. Even adjusting the EQ didn’t help much with the bass. On the HS1A, changing out the ear pads to the synthetic leather ones seemed to help a little bit just by way of creating a better seal. Of course, the HS1’s only come with the memory foam ear pads so there’s no help there. For music, I tested both headsets with FLAC audio files, Pandora streaming audio and LAME VBR MP3 files.
I tested movies with Netflix streaming and DVDs. The HS1 sounded great with Dolby Headphone 5.1 surround sound (supports 7.1 as well). I was able to make the analog HS1A sound just a good by using my Asus Xonar DX soundcard, which provides Dolby Headphone support on the card itself. I really appreciated the clear dialogue in the films I watched. Sound effects were great and directional effects were spot on. Again, due to the lack of bass, some of the more bassy explosion-type effects didn’t come through as well, but I only noticed because I was listening for them critically.
Playing F.E.A.R. 2 with the HS1/HS1A gave me nightmares two nights in a row. No, seriously; they were really bad nightmares. With Dolby Headphone on, the directional effects gave me some serious goose bumps. The HS1/HS1A also reproduced the gunfire terrifically. I could clearly hear the bullet shells hitting the ground. StarCraft 2 was also a joy to play.
The only real issue I had with sound was with volume on the analog HS1A. Though the HS1 and HS1A have identical sound specs, my Asus Xonar DX could not drive the HS1A’s as well as I expected them to. I got them pretty loud, but there were times I wished I could get another 15-20% more. A higher end card with a better headphone amp may have done better.
I had no problems with the mic on the HS1/HS1A at all. I tested it primarily with Skype and with some audio dubbing of video projects. I could hear some slight background noise in my recordings, but certainly passable for my purposes and for gaming. I appreciated that the mic folded out of the way when I didn’t need it.
BUILD & DESIGN
Both the HS1 and HS1A use 50mm drivers, which are bigger than the norm and probably contributed to the slightly heavy build. The entire headset is made out of plastic, less the headband. The headband is cushioned well and is covered in a soft, synthetic leather material. The single-sided cord is on the left ear cup and is about 10 feet in length. It is braided to prevent tangles and includes an attached velcro cable wrap. Both headsets have a wired remote about a third of the way down the cable from the ear cup. The HS1’s remote is very cool. You can control the volume via separate volume up and volume down buttons. There is also a mic mute button and the volume buttons are surrounded by blue lights. At night, it makes it very easy to find. When you activate the mic mute, the light switches to red. The HS1A has a standard fare volume dial and mic mute switch. Other than the remote and difference in cable ends (USB vs. 3.5mm jack), the only way to tell the difference between the HS1 and HS1A is the color of the ear cups. The HS1 ear cups are silver and the HS1A ear cups are black. I found the overall build quality of the HS1/HS1A to be very good–typical of Corsair. They even warranty the headsets for 2 years for good measure.
HS1 or HS1A?
I personally prefer the HS1 because of the built-in Dolby Headphone support. The built-in sound card essentially guarantees me consistent sound quality across any Windows PC. It’s slightly more expensive than the HS1A but by less than $20 at most retailers. Also, my Asus Xonar DX soundcard doesn’t autodetect headphones and requires me to select my output manually. This is a pain, but by using the USB HS1, I can just unplug it to listen to my speakers or plug the HS1 back in to listen to the headset. I recommend the analog HS1A to those users who have invested heavily in their PC sound with high-end audio cards like the Xonar Essence, that have outstanding headphone amps and have Dolby Headphone support on the card itself. If I’d spent $300 on an audio card, I’d probably want to use them too. It makes sense that Corsair answered the call of enthusiast consumers by releasing the HS1A. Woo!
|Corsair HS1||Corsair HS1A|
|Frequency response||20Hz – 20kHz||20Hz – 20kHz|
|Impedance||32 Ohms @ 1kHz||32 Ohms @ 1kHz|
|Cable||3 meters (~10 feet)||3 meters (~10 feet)|
|Connector||USB Type A||3.5mm|
|Warranty||2 years||2 years|
The Corsair HS1 and HS1A gaming headsets are terrific buys. They have an incredible balance of comfort and sound quality. For everyday music listening, movie watching and gaming, I can’t imagine a better headset to own. Audio enthusiasts who invested in high-end sound cards will appreciate the analog HS1A. Everyone else will enjoy the versatility and consistent sound quality of the HS1.
Available from Amazon.com.
* Review units courtesy of Corsair